50-year-old market dices with death in central Saigon

By Duy Tran   August 10, 2016 | 06:00 am GMT+7

Acid, explosive materials and hundreds of chemicals banned in food production can be easily found at Kim Bien Market.

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Kim Bien Market, or the market of death, located in District 5, has long been the largest chemical retail site in the south of Vietnam.

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Around 100 stores sell chemicals here, and many people think that this is where the ammunition for acid attacks originates from.

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According to a shop owner, trading chemicals is her family business and it complies with Vietnamese law.

"Where there’s demand, there will be supply. If we don’t, others will,” she said, adding that incidents related to chemicals are very rare. Her family hasn’t suffered any accidents for more than 30 years.

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Small traders at Kim Bien Market also sell dyes, flavorings and preservatives.

Loc, who works at a photocopy shop, told VnExpress: "Every time people talk about acid, they blame it on Kim Bien Market. But for many of us, without the market, we wouldn't have anywhere to buy chemicals. I think we should recognize the positive side of it."

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A stall selling dyes at Kim Bien Market. Here locals can buy a kind of yellow powder used to make pickles, although it's banned by authorities.

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The city stipulates that buyers must present their identity cards when purchasing acid. However, most stalls often ignore this regulation.

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Around the market there are always "ghost" motorcycles (shabby, no number plates) transporting bottles of chemicals at high speed.

"My house is near the market so I feel quite insecure. Should anything happen, the whole area could blow up. And for these reckless scooters, if they collide and fall in the street, we locals would suffer a lot," said 65-year-old Lien.

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Two days ago, a bottle of acid fell off a motorbike splashing five people that forced them to go to hospital with burns.

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Authorities often inspect chemical stores at the market and say that the majority of stores don't meet requirements for fire safety and storage conditions.

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At the end of 2014, the People's Committee of District 5 required businesses to relocate to a nearby shopping center but traders said the new site wasn’t suitable and the rents were high.

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Currently, the city’s Department of Industry and Trade is working on a plan to move the market to District 8 and eliminate the chemical business.

 
 
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